Why BJP and why not BJP in Manipur ?
Paotinlen Chongloui (Lenn)
As of 2021, the BJP is entrenched deep in the political firmament of the North East India. This is nothing new for the region which has seen parties ruling the Centre rule its capitals. It has never been a partnership of equals but rather resembles the Mughals Emperor controlling the regional satraps. With the power-heist, the BJP orchestrated in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland, the BJP today rules in almost all the NE States. So, it makes a compelling argument to want to be associated with the BJP and also for ticket-seekers to hobnob with the who’s who of the BJP and RSS. It helps the far-flung NE States to lobby for more funds from Centre as they are cash strapped. A number of new developmental projects, roads, railways and other infrastructure projects have been taken up and things seems to be going great for the States as of now; but its continuity is a matter of concern with the National economic indices tumbling.
The last election held in NE States was that of Assam where they have come back to power with Dr Himanta Biswas Sarma as the CM. NEDA, which is a conglomerate of regional parties headed by BJP, seems to be the glue that holds them together until the fiascos at the Assam-Mizoram, Assam-Meghalaya borders erupted. Being close the party which holds power at the Centre helps NE States to seek for much needed Central funds; and have been dependent on the same for years. What is true of the whole NE is also true for each individual States; Manipur is no different, even worse off than States such as Assam. By the way, Assam is rich in oil and other natural resources along with the flushing tea gardens; but I believe, it also is seeking Central funds. Is this a matter of choice or compulsion ? It could be a case of fifty-fifty. In the last 50 years or so since Independence, NE Govts have not strived to be self-reliant and have not taken proactive steps to beak their financial dependency! The compelling factor for dependency could also be attributed to its remoteness and problems of insurgency.
As it stands today, financially and politically, we are dependent on the Centre which is as good as saying the BJP Govt. with the Congress in shambles. Therefore, it is very difficult to point fingers at aspiring candidates seeking BJP tickets. While doing so, they go against the very DNA of their being. NE has seen ethnic tensions but hardly any communal tensions ! This is the general perception in Manipur. For instance, for Saikul Constituency in Manipur, it was reported that there are close to 8 persons lining up for party tickets. You can well say BJP ticket is a winning knockout punch in this Constituency. I do see the advantage of going for BJP ticket even though they have to compromise with their beliefs and values. Moreover, BJP ticket gives them access to Central leaders, State Govt. There are many positives for being in the BJP; but what tops it all is the access to the election funds for fighting election.
With regard to Manipur, Mr. Biren has been able to bring semblance of good governance to Manipur. His “Go to Village” was quite popular with the people until he shot himself in the foot with ADC Bill 2021. The Hills led by All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur is shunning Biren ! So, his Govt. could bring in anti-incumbency and anti-Biren feeling to the fore for BJP candidates. Moreover, the Congress seems to be in ascendency in Manipur.
Well ! There are not many reasons to shun BJP as their acceptability had grown over the years and since 2014, they are the party to be in though they have lost their sheen of “party with a difference”. The incumbent CMs of Manipur and Assam were loyal Congressmen before becoming BJP CM. The compromises from being a secularist to a BJP man must be hard, I would like to believe so. The reason for shunning BJP in Manipur would be the same reason why BJP needs to be defeated at the National level.
The people of NE are inherently secular which can be affirmed by the very fact there has been hardly any communal riots in NE States. The unfortunate ethnic clashes are invariably on account of other factors and hardly due to religious differences. This could change. Thirdly, the gulf between Hills and valley, tribals and non-tribals are getting bigger though Biren was initially able to bridge the divide. The ADC fiasco has made the tribals view Biren with suspicion now. Fourthly, the State can never be independent financially and politically if we keep looking out for who is in power at the Centre.
All said and done, it seems like a good bet to see the heydays of regional party such as MPP, NPP, TMC, KNA, NPF etc. coming back if young principled politicians come to them . The self-sustainability of the State, financially and politically, should be the vision !